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Headline CPI Expected to Have Spiked Higher in August, but Core Rate Seen Slowing

José Luis Gutiérrez

Economists expect the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) to have jumped 0.6% in August, or triple the pace of July's 0.2% increase. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is anticipated to have grown at rate of 3.6% versus 3.2% in July.

The blame for higher inflation will be laid at resurgent oil prices, with WTI Crude Oil Tuesday morning hitting a new 2023 high just shy of $89 per barrel, up a whopping 33% since the start of July.

The core CPI – which strips out food and energy prices and which seems to garner more attention from policymakers at the U.S. Federal Reserve – is expected to have dipped to a 4.3% year-over-year pace in August from July's 4.7%. That would be the slowest rate of core CPI inflation since mid-2021.

What it means for bitcoin

The summer rally for bitcoin (BTC) and the broader cryptocurrency market has been completely snuffed out, with BTC on Monday dipping below $25,000 to its weakest level since mid-June, and ether (ETH) tumbling to a six-month low.

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Analysts will differ on the specific reasons, but surely high on the list are interest rates that give every indication of staying higher and for longer than most had anticipated.

While the Fed appears set to hold its benchmark fed funds rate steady at its policy meeting later this month, investor hopes that the central bank might begin considering cutting rates in the near future have dissipated thanks to continuing strength in the economy and inflation.

Just a couple of months ago, market participants had been anticipating the first Fed rate cuts in late 2023. By a few weeks ago, those expectations shifted to early 2024. A check of fed funds futures traded at the CME now shows bets on the first cut rate having been pushed out to roughly one year from now.

Should it come to pass, tomorrow's decline in core CPI will be welcome to policymakers, but even a 4.3% inflation rate is more than double the Fed's 2% target. And central bankers will have a hard time claiming victory over inflation when consumers are watching prices at the pump advance with each fill-up.